My Story: Doing MDMA Assisted Psychotherapy for PTSD
The Day I Thought I Needed Anti-Depressants
April 6th, 2019 - Two days before my 34th birthday
"Two days ago, I finally vocalized to Grace that I had felt I wasn't able to live my daily life without support. Help to be antidepression drugs.
I had seen my ex need pills and use them. I understood from this the positives of getting back that feeling of retaking control of your life, blowing that dark cloud away.
Also, the negatives of the numbing that can occur, weight gain, taking months to find the right dosage and much much more.
After this conversation, I felt a weight lifted off me for the next 36hrs, to the point where I was wondering if I was taking a step that wasn't needed for me.
Perhaps I was jumping the gun on this, and I felt fine. I could move on in life if I did everything right.
Was I wrong for thinking I was at that stage?
This morning I was hit with the reality of it all.
The cloud was back.
The hard part about my mental struggles is that they arnt with me 24/7. I can go days or weeks with a positive outlook on life. Then the next morning wake up in a dull gloom.
The gloom doesn't stop me from living. I can sleep, workout, eat, basically go through the motions in my life. That's all it is though... they are motions and no more.
As the hours go by, I hope I feel more normal, but today is not that day. I eat I watch tv. I meet up with a family member.
My world is livable, but there is still no connection, I am just here. "
Three days before writing this journal entry, I realized that I needed my life to change one way or another to fight this mental disorder. I was focusing on my fitness, work, healthy eating, and sleeping as well as I could yet the grip of despair wasn't letting go.
For eleven months, I did all this.
As well as therapy two times a month, sometimes four.
The only other thing I could do was to find the right dosage of antidepressant that aligned with me.
Or was it?
MDMA is an illegal drug. It is currently allowed in psychedelic research assisting those with mental health conditions.
Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies is one of the forefront leaders in working with psychedelics in clinical trials. Their current goal is to have MDMA be FDA approved for prescription medicine by 2021.
I chose a therapist who had an extensive background in this underground work, and we had nine talking therapy sessions before the ultimate MDMA experience.
To keep my therapist safe, we are going to call her Sarah and here are her credentials.
Master's degree in Counseling Psychology
Registered Clinical Counselor at BCACC
Trauma training with Dr. Gabor Mate
5 years of experience as an underground psychedelic therapist
Personal background: struggling with depression, having come out of it with the help of psychedelics, having experienced psychadelic sessions herself as a client.
How I Decided That Taking Antidepressants Could Wait
Keeping honest to those around me and those who I call friends on Instagram, I took to my IG stories and laid out what was going on in my head. I want to help people with mental health problems so I keep my life as honest as I can on social media.
I had always been an advocate for eating healthy, working out and generally treating your body right to battle my mental struggles. Because of the realization that I couldn't do this alone, I thought it was only fair that they hear the reasons why.
The hours after posting what my plan was, I was contacted by many people saying they knew the feeling I was going through and had suggestions on what else I could do instead of taking that big step forward.
A reply stood out.
" Paul, have you tried doing MDMA for depression treatment? "
I connected with this.
Over the last five years of trying to better myself, I had listened to a lot of Tim Ferris ( Podcast #365 With Micheal Pollan ) and Joe Rogan ( Podcast #782 With Rick Doblin ). At first, I was listening to these guys to find inspiration and learn how they got to where they were in life. As episodes passed, I started hearing the use of psychedelic experiences from substances such as ecstasy, molly, mushrooms, 5-meo dmt and ayahuasca become a central point for these men and also the guest they brought in.
They seemed to be using these drugs as a way to break down walls and barriers while opening up their subconscious. With help from a professional, I pictured myself doing these some time in the future.
And It seemed the future had arrived.
And this is what I did.
How To Find A Psychedelic Guide
Finding a therapist that worked with these drugs was the hardest part of all of this journey.
Within the last few years, there has been many talked about changes in mental health treatment, however most areas dive into illegal realms.
Due to the illegal nature of psychedelic therapy, these people don't go and make a flashy webpage and advertise through Instagram stories.
I live in a forward-thinking city, Vancouver, BC, Canada. And only when I got a contact through a friend, did I have the first real opportunity to make this a reality.
Word of mouth
Unfortunately, this is the only way I can see others finding someone to help them in this area.
You have to put your trust in the person who connects you. Then you have to do your due diligence to do a background check on the therapist and meet with them before choosing to work with them.
You need to feel 100% safe. Until our society changes its views and governments change their laws on these drugs, this is what we must workaround.
What Is The Cost Of A Psychedelic Therapy Session
The cost of doing this will vary between therapists.
To give you an idea of what you could be looking at, I want to share with you what I invested in myself for this experience.
Sarah offered a free initial sixty-minute session after we had emailed back and forth a couple of times. During the session, I gave her the rundown of my life in the last five years.
Getting my first long-term girlfriend who had her mental health issues.
Learning on the fly to be a boyfriend for the first time and share my time with someone else. I wasn't very good at it, and it put stress on us both.
Finding out my dad had Parkinson's disease.
Watching him suddenly decay as we found out it was most likely Lewy Body Disease. Then finally passing away from a cancerous lump we only saw for the first time weeks before.
I told her this story.
Anxiety gripped me when my ex came up.
I cried when my father came up.
I did the things I was getting used to doing when I talked about these people.
She evaluated my situation and made it pretty evident that I was in dire need to have this work done.
I couldn't have agreed more.
Sarah quoted me somewhere between $3000 for three months worth of therapy sessions and one day of MDMA work.
12 therapy sessions = $150 each
MDMA Sessions = $1200
Therapy Work Leading Up To The Big Day
The initial therapy sessions were pretty much the same as every other therapy session I had done before.
You come to an office.
Sit down in front of a total stranger.
And then stab wildly at an area you feel could be a good starting point and try to vomit enough out verbally, so the rest of the session starts flowing effectively.
There is no right or wrong way to start a brand new therapy session, all you can do is let down your defenses and be as honest as possible so the professional can see who the real you is.
The only slight change I noticed with these sessions were that we had a generalized focus into these areas around my father and my ex. While with past therapists, there was more of a "what's in my head today" aspect to them.
What surprised me, though, was as the sessions started to accumulate. It was having a noticeably positive effect on my anxiety and stress I had when thinking about my dad and ex.
Perhaps it was because I was doing these sessions with a goal in mind that had a due date. But It was extremely noticeable to me on how much more relaxed I was anytime they came to my head, and they also came far less than previously.
Blogs I Read On Using MDMA and Psychedelic Drugs for therapy
I have read some blogs on others doing MDMA therapy session where initial contact was through email.
A few more emails went back and forth explaining their situation, which then lead to meeting up for the first time in-person to perform the MDMA treatment.
I would not recommend this. There are too many variables left out doing this route.
Do you trust this person enough to be in a vulnerable drug-induced state?
Can you get the most out this costly session from telling them about your life in email format?
Will you fully open up to a stranger even with the powerful "tell-all" effects of MDMA in you?
MDMA Therapy Session: The Day Of
Sarah came to my apt at 9 AM on a sunny Saturday. All of our other therapy sessions had been at her office, but she wanted this experience to be in a surrounding I felt most comfortable and safe.
We sat down right away and she went over the critical points for our day.
I will start by taking 125mg pill of MDMA
There is the second pill in case needed two hours in
Do not expect anything from this, talk and let it happen
If you want anything, ask me, and I will get up and get it for you
This is approximately a 6hr process, may take longer if needed
I took the first pill of 125mg at 9:37 AM.
Sarah got me to lay down with a blanket on top to keep my body temperature up, and I put on a sleeping mask.
She then gave me a rose quartz crystal for opening the heart, and a selenite to align my chakras, to let the energy smoothly flow. Then she took hold of her sound bowls and chanted a hymn.
Healing bowls and crystals are outside my realm of everyday healing life for myself, a little too hippie-dippie as I say to her. However, I was in her world and wanted to jump into the deep end, not just dip my toes in the water.
As I laid there listening to the low ringing tones being produced, I was in a place of peace and calm and warmth. Entirely wrapped up on my couch with a sleeping mask on and two comfortably weight stones in my hands.
I laid there.
And laid for what felt like 45 minutes.
Is the molly kicking in?
I can feel it coming ... oh wait, can I?
Dammit, I should say something because this is getting awkward.
What the hell do I say?
If I'm high, my first words should be profound and hit my depression on the head.
" Sarah, so I feel like I should say something, but have no clue what to say "
Nice work genius.
"That's ok Paul; we can talk about anything, there is no wrong subject. What's going on in your head."
The feeling of being unsure was quickly washed away and the verbal deluge began.
What Does MDMA Feel Like?
MDMA is the active ingredient of ecstasy and molly. MDMA is the pure medicine, not cut with anything to alter its effect.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse describes MDMA as...
"a synthetic drug that alters mood and perception (awareness of surrounding objects and conditions). It is chemically similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, producing feelings of increased energy, pleasure, emotional warmth, and distorted sensory and time perception."
When it kicks in, the world becomes a bright bundle of joy, where everything is possible.
The blanket that I had wrapped around me became a cloud from heaven.
The desire to talk to Sarah became all I wanted to do. It was the most exciting thing in my life at the time.
Anything that came to my head I immediately blurted out, there was no voice in my head anymore that would check in to make sure it was "worthy" of speaking on.
Desires that I had hidden deep down that I had not let anyone know about became the forefront of topics. And they stayed the focal point of the conversation for long periods.
The fear of shame was gone.
I could be wrong with no repercussions.
Those dreams I dare not tell anyone came into light for the first time.
While the areas I had thought to be my anchors in life, were barely talked over. They, in reality, when I could be free to speak, were of no use to me for growth.
The Dose of MDMA That I Took For Therapy
9:37 AM First Capsule of 125mg
11:40 Am Second Capsule of 125mg
Usually, the second dose is 60mg, but due to me being a giant at 6'7 235lbs, she decided a second full dose was proper.
1:40 PM One Capsule of psilocybin 250mg
The purpose for the psilocybin was to help connect myself as I came down from the MDMA
How I Felt After The MDMA Therapy Session Was Over
What does molly depression feel like?
The after-effects of this drug will leave you in a low place, due to the using up of your natural levels of serotonin, dopamine and nor-epinephrine. Better explained here by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
This can last anywhere from 24-72 hours. Administering the over the counter drug 5-HTP for two to three days after the use of MDMA will help in counteracting this feeling.
The Day After The MDMA Therapy
This morning was ... odd.
I wasn't extremely depressed like I had been in the past when taking molly. However, I also didn't have a ridiculous hangover from alcohol paired with the depleted serotonin levels, which went hand in hand in my past experiences with it.
However, I had zero desire to do anything outside of my routine. Making it even more confusing, I had zero desire to do anything in my routine.
I was very contemplative, yet didn't know what to contemplate.
Sarah told me the first three days after the session was where I would most likely feel like I wasn't fully there in the world.
I was there... wherever there was.
How I Feel After The MDMA Therapy Session
The first 48 hours, I found myself coming in and out of that "odd" space.
It happened less frequently as the hours passed, and finally, as I woke up the third day after my session, I felt normal again.
It has now been two weeks post-session, and the most noticeable change I have found so far is how much more comfortable I feel in my skin.
I don't feel ashamed about my little imperfections.
I am not making excuses to hide from doing things that are not part of my typical day.
I feel normal... something I have felt in a VERY long time.
*A treatment like this can't be evaluated in a blink of an eye. I will be writing a thorough evaluation of what has changed post MDMA therapy session in a couple of months. Stay Tuned!